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Watching the counting of the recent presidential election on the US, there was a point where Joe Biden had 238 electoral votes and was leading in enough states to get to 270.

If he had gotten to 270, by the way pundits and people were talking, I'm quite certain that he would have been declared the winner by all the news channels and he would have been celebrating and giving victory speeches.

But, as I understand it, a win in a state does not guarantee all the state's electoral votes. Is this the case? Is he not still at the mercy of the electoral college? I have read about "faithless" electors and that they may face penalties for voting against the public but it's still possible. Could, say, a Nevadan elector, taken in by Donald Trump's talk about fraud, feeling so strongly about it that they were willing to face the punishment, just cast their vote for Trump, thereby potentially denying Biden the presidency? And would he just have to accept it?

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    If Biden won a bare 270 votes (possible if he won NV, AZ, and NE2 but lost PA and GA), then we might worry about faithless electors overthrowing democracy. But Biden is up by significantly more (he’ll likely have 306 in the end) and so the risk is low. The fact that it’s even a possibility, though, is kind of crazy when you think about it – divibisan Nov 8 '20 at 1:36
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    In addition to faithless electors, there are lawsuits that are pending, unopened ballots that remain to be counted, provisional ballots that need to be examined and counted, and military votes that remain to be counted. And then there are implied (and sometimes explicit) threats of violence. As much as many of us would like it to be over, it is not over yet. – David Hammen Nov 8 '20 at 1:39
  • Overthrowing democracy? C'mon man. Let's say a highly improbable chain of events leads us to conclude that there was a successful fraud campaign that led to the outcome we see today. You assert that there should be no mechanism to safeguard against that? Faithless electors do not "overthrow democracy." I know we disagree on almost everything, but you are better than that! – acpilot Nov 10 '20 at 17:31
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The definite decision only comes when the vote in the electoral college is held, counted, and the joint session of Congress certifies it. That being said, parties do take care how they select their slate of electoral college candidates and them becoming faithless is unlikely.

The less unlikely scenario would be states refusing to certify the election results as they are indicated by the unofficial news media tallies, and sending a different slate of electors. There could even be competing groups of electors from a state, each presenting credentials signed by a different official. That mess would take both political bickering and perhaps the courts to sort.

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